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Apr 12, 2022 By IIDA HQ
Perspective: State of Being | Talk Talk Part One
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Sarah Clair, IIDA, and Rolando Mendoza talk embracing disruption, collaboration, and ultimately designing for the future.
By IIDA HQ Apr 12, 2022
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What does the future of design look like? Sarah Clair, IIDA, vice president of healthcare interiors, technical resources, and quality control leader at HKS, joins Rolando Mendoza, design technology director at Gensler, in a two-part conversation about the future of design, and technology’s revolutionary potential to reshape the ways we collaborate, enhance community experience on and offline, and to elevate the design profession at-large.

Can you talk about the technologies you saw rapidly adapted and implemented during and post-pandemic—especially those reshaping the future of collaboration?

Rolando Mendoza:
As we were launching into work at home without really having a plan or strategy, the things that we very quickly mobilized were our IT and Design Technology teams. We were looking at ways to facilitate teams working remotely and somehow keep the workflow seamless. One of the things that helped tremendously in that aspect, and I don't know Sarah if you experienced the same dynamic, but the whole idea of being cloud-based and using the platforms that we were using before, such as BIM 360 and Revit, that transition seemed fairly seamless for us—we quickly realized that the infrastructure was already there. The way the platforms were designed enabled the team to continue doing the work without really having that need to be physically in the office. It seemed that we had been working that way before, virtually, even within the office environment but somehow the time during the pandemic kind of validated that workflow.

Sarah Clair: We had a lot of the same processes going on as we overnight switched our firm from being day-to-day in the office to completely remote—it was very seamless. We did have a few hiccups in the beginning. But we started using Microsoft Teams entirely during that process, and switched most projects in BIM 360. We also started using Miro extensively once we found ourselves at home and it just has taken off completely. Imagine the project team and the clients all in one Miro board with the whole history of where they started, where they're going, and where they're ending up. For our design presentations we’re using a lot of Enscape now because we can just edit on the fly during a zoom call or just do a walk-through with a client making it seem like they're there. The other thing is reusing Bluebeam. Those technologies make it a lot easier to work together as a team especially with a firm that has offices all over the world. Before the pandemic we thought that we were working a lot with our other offices but now we're working with them every day on every project. It's great because we have so many more teammates that we can take advantage of, and help out on our projects in general. It has been really good.

RM: Yeah, I would echo that. That ability to collaborate more efficiently virtually was really helpful during the pandemic. It was really interesting to see how seamlessly teams just started to collaborate—it just seemed so natural. It's almost like a light bulb went on in everybody's head, like ‘Oh my God these tools have always been here and we get to use them in a completely different way because of the pandemic’. The technology was already in existence and it was as if it was just a matter of switching that mindset. But what’s also important to mention about our industry in particular is that there seems to still be a sort of skepticism about technology and having to learn new processes seeming like a burden to some, but I think it's important to acknowledge the all the work and effort that software developers and programmers have been putting in, years before the pandemic—when the pandemic arrived and all that work that they did prior to that has really paid off tremendously.


Sarah Clair, IIDA | Vice President of Healthcare Interiors, Technical Resources, and Quality Control Leader at HKS
Rolando Mendoza | Design Technology Director at Gensler

How do we go about building technologies for environmental and social equity?

One of the things that we're looking at is how technology can play a role in developing more inclusive spaces as companies are coming back to work, and as they’re strategizing and thinking about what that return to office is going to look like. It's an opportunity for everyone to rethink the hierarchy of offices and the way the teams interact with each other. I think the whole work environment becomes more inclusive as a result. So, the question is how can we, as designers, begin to think about leveraging these tools in ways that we hadn't really thought about before? And this goes back to that idea of acknowledging the value of technology. Technology is actually a social construct if you really think about it—it has cultural and social aspects to it. So the way that we use those tools really shapes who we are. And we’ve seen a lot of that recently in terms of social media and the negative impact that some aspects of social media are having on society. So how can we re-sync that in a more proactive and maybe inclusive and positive way? I think design and technology have a tremendous role to play in that.

SC: Spinning off of that, our offices have seen a lot of requests for our commercial and office projects. When the pandemic happened everything was kind of at a standstill, but now they're all coming back—offices are being redesigned for this new way of working with technology and in that hybrid fashion. Now that everything is on the cloud our design models can be seen by everybody. We can work seamlessly over the Internet and we can reach more people—not just the people in our local area. You can have a design meeting with anybody, no matter where they are, and all you need is an internet connection. And you can more easily mentor our younger staff. Previously you would only have the interior designer, the architect, and a space planner but now you can have the whole project team on the call—everyone can learn and take back what they need to know and go. It’s just making our lives easier in the design process.

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